Powell to focus on Kashmir during South Asian visit

Saturday, July 27, 2002

NEW DELHI, India -- While nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are no longer on the brink of war, Secretary of State Colin Powell still faces a tough task this weekend in trying to further reduce tensions between the South Asian rivals.

The nuclear war rhetoric and cross-border shelling, which prompted thousands of foreigners to flee India last month, have nearly ceased. But a million troops are still facing off along the border, and deadly Islamic militant attacks continue in the disputed Himalayan province of Kashmir.

Now each side has high expectations for Powell, who left Washington for New Delhi on Friday. He spends a day in the Indian capital, then meets Pakistani officials in Islamabad on Sunday.

India wants him to find a formula that will prompt Pakistan to keep its promise to stop attacks from its territory into Kashmir; Pakistan wants him to persuade New Delhi to join talks with Islamabad over the five-decade-old Kashmir dispute.

"What Powell has to do is to strike a balance between these two demands," said Amitabh Mattoo, a member of India's National Security Advisory Board and a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. "It's not crisis management that's required at the moment, it's conflict resolution."

Powell told reporters Thursday that he will encourage actions beyond those already taken to "reduce the level of violence or the potential for violence."

He said he would discuss the possibility of India-Pakistan dialogue on the issue of Kashmir -- the Himalayan province divided between the two nations and the center of the latest war tensions.

Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has repeatedly called on India to resume talks. New Delhi has rejected dialogue until cross-border infiltration is halted.

Musharraf said Friday he expects Powell's visit "to drive home to India that we need to start a process of dialogue and move forward on the Kashmir dispute."

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